COVID-19: Victoria - further restrictions
Monday, 3 August 2020
Due to the level of COVID-19 infection, Victoria has now been declared a state of disaster and further restrictions are now in place to reduce the number of people leaving their homes and moving around Victoria.
Stage 4 restrictions are now in place for metropolitan Melbourne and Stage 3 restrictions are now in place for regional Victoria (which includes Mitchell Shire). An outline of restrictions and frequently asked questions can be found here.
Veterinary clinics remain an essential service
Veterinary clinics and related services, including on-farm visits and visits to veterinary clinics, animal minding services and artificial insemination are permitted to continue operating. A comprehensive list of restrictions on industry and business can be found here.
Key points relevant to veterinary care
- Face coverings are now mandatory for all Victorian residents that are 12 years of age and over unless having a lawful excuse
- A curfew is now in place in metropolitan Melbourne and will be in operation from 8pm-5am, with people only allowed to leave their home for four reasons – shopping for necessary goods (which includes animal needs), exercise, care and health care and work. ‘Taking your pet to the vet’ is listed under ‘health and care.’ The curfew is not applicable to regional Victoria (which includes Mitchell Shire)
- Metropolitan Melbourne residents should avoid travelling further than 5kms from their home. For veterinary care or collection of supplies from a veterinary clinic, clients MAY travel further than 5kms. The restriction on travelling further than 5kms from their home is not applicable to regional Victoria (which includes Mitchell Shire)
- In Metropolitan Melbourne, only one person per household should be obtaining services or products with the exception of accompanying dependants (children or at- risk persons). This restriction is not applicable to regional Victoria (which includes Mitchell Shire)
- All open businesses and services will have until 11:59pm Friday 7 August to enact a COVIDSafe plan focused on safety, prevention and response - in the event that coronavirus is linked to the workplace. Once further detail can be obtained regarding this, the AVA will provide this information to you
- Racing Victoria and Greyhound Racing Victoria have confirmed (via website updates) that horse and greyhound racing and training (including trials) will continue under the current strict biosecurity protocols. Essential workers (including veterinary personel will continue to operate with owners now now banned from attending horse racing events.
There are no restrictions on veterinary staff attending their workplace.
The restriction of not travelling 5km from their residence does not apply when travelling to and from work or whilst conducting work duties. The home curfew of 8pm-5am also does not apply if performing work duties or travelling to and from work. Veterinary home visits for the purposes of consultations, treatment or delivery of veterinary products (including food) are work duties and are exempt from restrictions.
A permit system is currently being developed by the state government for essential workers but in the interim, it is advisable that all staff are issued with a letter from their workplace that confirms their employment to avoid delays if questioned by enforcement officers whilst traveling.
The Victorian state government has NOT issued any directives or restrictions on how veterinary clinics operate or the services that they may provide, and AVA recommends that individual clinics make their own professional judgment. Suggested considerations include:
- Limiting risk of infection to the workplace by implementing appropriate procedures and protocols within the workplace, including PPE. Further information can be found here
- Limiting access by clients into clinics, ie. collecting animals from the car or outside of the clinic
- Ensuring that any staff displaying even the mildest of symptoms of COVID-19, do not attend work, get tested and isolate until a negative result is received. If no entitlements are available for leave whilst waiting for results, applications can be made for financial support here
- Continuing infection prevention measures and increasing (if necessary) the frequency of disinfection of communal areas of your workplace, ie. reception areas, bathrooms, lunch areas
- Ensuring that you do not permit any client to enter a clinic if they are confirmed positive with COVID-19, or are awaiting test results for COVID-19, or have symptoms of COVID-19, or are a close contact of anyone confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19
- Requesting clients to pre-order medications and prescription food that can be prepared ahead of collection and can then be delivered to clients outside of the clinic
- If allowing client access, ensure physical distancing can be adhered to and limit close contact with clients to less than 15 minutes when possible
- Promoting and offering telemedicine consultations when appropriate. Please ensure all telemedicine obligations are adhered to. Further information from the Veterinary Practitioners Registration Board of Victoria can be found here
- If home visits are required, precautions should be taken. Guidelines for homes visits can be found here
- Postponement of non-urgent services/treatments – especially in metropolitan Melbourne
There are no restrictions on clients attending veterinary clinics – even if the veterinary clinic is not within a 5km radius of their home. Seeking veterinary care is considered ‘health and care’ and is therefore exempt from curfew hours – although appointments should be made within curfew hours, with emergency consultations only outside curfew hours.
It is advisable that consideration be given to issuing your clients with confirmation of a veterinary appointment via a letter or text message to avoid delays if questioned by enforcement officers whilst traveling.
COVID-19 Notification rules – applicable to employers and self-employed persons
Veterinary clinics have pleasingly reported no COVID-19 infections across Australia. This is not by accident – the workplace processes implemented and precautions taken in relation to infection control by all veterinarians and their staff has been exceptional. It is important to note, although, that if a clinic is affected by a COVID-19 infection within their workplace – it must legally be reported.
The Victorian Occupational Health and Safety (COVID-19 Incident Notification) Regulations 2020 commenced yesterday, and will apply for 12 months.
They require employers to notify WorkSafe Victoria immediately when they become aware that an employee, an independent contractor or an employee of an independent contractor has "received a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and has attended the [relevant] workplace within the infectious period". Failure to comply can result in employers being fined a maximum of $198,264 and individuals fined a maximum of $39,652.
The same requirement applies to a self-employed person who receives a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and has attended the workplace while infectious.
The Regulations define the infectious period as "14 days prior to the onset of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 or a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis (whichever comes first), until the date on which the person receives a clearance from isolation from the [State] Department of Health and Human Services".
We empathise with all veterinarians and veterinary staff currently working in Victoria and understand that these further restrictions will place further stress on individuals. Please take care of yourself and check in with your colleagues to ensure they are OK and please seek help from the AVA’s Counselling Service on 1300 687 327 if required.
We also acknowledge there will varying questions about particular situations. Please call AVA member services on 1300 137 309 or email with any queries you may have, and we will do our best obtain a response for you from the appropriate authority.
Senior Advocacy Officer